The 24-year-old girl left unregistered due to gender-based discrimination/ TLAS provides the case with free legal aid
In a report issued during may 2018, with the financial support of UNHCR, TLAS (Tirana Legal Aid Society) found out that around 1031 individuals were unregistered in the civic register in Albania and simultaneously at risk of remaining stateless. Statelessness is considered a phenomenon which is underground and very difficult to be measured. The factors that might cause this phenomenon vary a lot. Based on the report, some of these factors are:
“The main factors of statelessness are being born out of Albania’s territory (53%), children born out of marriage (12%) and the ones born in the maternity or hospital but with inaccurate personal data of the mother (9%).
Members of Roma and Egyptian communities constantly face with social and economic marginalization, factors that bring the disproportional impact on these communities which are much more affected by statelessness”.
Among many cases of stateless individuals, a bizarre case was found by TLAS: a 24-year-old girl from the Municipality of Kruja with the initials E.R. was unregistered in the civic registration. Given the story, you might assume that the girl’s family lives in a remote area in the Kruja city. On the contrary, the family is situated only 5 km away from the city and a Civic Registration Office is very close to their house. In this case it seems that lack of money is not the reason why the girls is left unregistered. In order to understand the reasons behind it, the lawyer at TLAS, Mrs. Rudina Brari has communicated with the relatives of the girl. It turned out that the reason why the girl is left unregistered is because her father rejected to register her due to the fact that she was born a female.
This girl is the fourth child of this family. The three other children: two sisters and one son are all registered in the Civic Registration Office. Additionally to that, the girl was not allowed to go to school. Family relations deteriorate more and in 2000 the father murders one of his daughters and then suicides in the jail.
During an interview with the lawyer, Brari elaborates on the challenges from the legal aspect on why this case is difficult until the fulfillment of the registration demand from the Judging Court, in order to end her statelessness.
How did you get in touch with this case?
We managed to find this case through the Child Protection Unit.
At first sight, it seemed unbelievable that a girl at this age could be unregistered. Her family relatives told us that the girl was born in house conditions and a nurse assisted at her birth.
Because of her sex, the father refused to register her. Additionally to him, her mother and other siblings hesitated to register and get the girl to school. As a matter of fact, the main responsibility for the registration of the child is up to the parents. But the Law on Civic Registration delegates the responsibility to the state structures like the police station, the Civic Registration office, the Health Personel that assisted the girl at birth, other siblings of the girl or the community administrator.
It is indeed weird that the statelessness of the girl was brought up only now that the girl will get married and she needs to make her relationship official. Only at this stage of life, the girl, her mother and other siblings started to ask on how they can proceed with the registration.
In your experience as a lawyer, have you ever encountered a similar case?
In my experience as a lawyer, this is the first case of statelessness due to the gender-based discrimination, at least the first time that the parents admit it themselves.
Such a case must involve a lot of challenges to legally follow it in a court. What are some of the obstacles?
In the conditions that the birth is done in the house, the nurse, in this case, can not prove the birth because she has passed away. Therefore the verification of the birth can only be carried out through court proceedings. Opening a file for this case requires a lot of documents and testimonials. It is also required some scientific expertise like DNA tests, in order to verify the birth of the girl.
Additionally to the payment for a lawyer, all these documents have a high cost for the family. Only the DNA analyzes cost around 72.000 Albanian Lek. In the economical situation of the girl, uneducated and unemployed, it is almost impossible to cover the financial cost mentioned above. This is the reason why this case was referred to TLAS, because this organization is financially supported by foreign donators.
The executive director of TLAS, Ms. Raimonda Bozo commented upon the case and highlighted the lack of interest from parents and siblings in this case.
“In the previous law on Civic Registration, it was still mandatory for the state instances to register the child in case that the parents did not do it. After the new law was passed, the mechanism of Child Protection Unit is strengthen. This case reveals the negligence of many state instances: the Civil Status Office itself, the midwife, the police, the Child Protection Unit, schools, etc.
A crucial part of the problem is the parental neglect. Even after the father’s death, the mother and her relatives haven’t tried for one moment to enroll the girl or send her to school. Only now that the girl is going to marry, the family members started to ask for ways how to deal with the registration.
In an interview for this case, Irena Shtraza, feminist activist, linked the problem of statelessness to the rooted patriarchalism of Albanian society. After hearing this case, Irena proposes that the data of statelessness between boys and girls can be reinterpreted if we take into consideration gender-based discrimination.
This story is very different from the other stories ... It is the case where the "package" of patriarchalism that is rooted in Albanian society, is reflected in the most extreme way in the case of this family.
What is quite bizarre in the case above is the fact that in this family the first three children are registered, indicating that it makes it impossible not to register the last one. Also in the family there is a case of a femicide, because the father killed one of the girls. It is clear that here we are dealing with a case of gender discrimination and this type of mentality brings these consequences where it is clearly denied an individual's existence by not registering the child in the civil status, which is the primary right for every human being.
However, I think that after the father passed away, other family members could have tried to register the girl.
After many endeavors, the Kruja District Court decided on January 28, 2019 to accept the request for the girl’s registration, marking this way another success story of TLAS in the registration of individuals at risk of being stateless.